It is near impossible to overstate the achievements and contributions to the community of Mia Mia resident the Honourable Professor Howard Nathan QC.
So it is little wonder the former Supreme Court judge has received a prestigious civilian honour this Australia Day, with his appointment as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).
“It’s bonza beaut,” he said of the honour.
One of the Honourable Nathan’s proudest achievements came before he even embarked on a career as a barrister, was made a Queen’s counsel in 1980 or appointed as judge of the Supreme Court in 1984.
As a student at the University of Melbourne he worked with the Immigration Reform Group, whose efforts were instrumental in building support against the White Australia Policy and sparking changes to immigration policy.
“Australia now is the best achieving multicultural society,” the Honourable Nathan said.
Another personal victory came during his time with the City of South Melbourne in the 1970s when he was involved in “beheading” the Housing Commission, which he said had effectively become a developer that dispossessed disadvantaged people of their homes and sold land for profit.
The Honourable Nathan also served as mayor of that council in 1974.
During his time at the bar, he said he also, with a group of fellow lawyer activists, sparked federal intervention in the Labor Party’s affairs in Victoria, displacing “Communist sympathisers” in the party.
His involvement in politics continued when he became an adviser to Whitlam government minister ‘Diamond’ Jim McClelland, and in 1983 he became the counsel assisting Victorian Attorney-General John Cain.
After retiring from full-time work in the Supreme Court in the 1990s, he spent time volunteering as a judge in several countries in the Caribbean and Asia.
He has also played an active role in the Jewish community, both locally and farther afield.
Among his contributions, the Honourable Nathan served as president of Temple Beth Israel in Melbourne, founded the central Victorian Jewish congregation of Kehillat S’dot Zahav, or ‘Community of the Goldfields’ and is a Jewish advisor at Bendigo Health.
“It’s because you can’t be a Jew alone, you’ve got to have a community around you, so it’s necessary to participate.”
A love of the arts has also seen him become director of the Bendigo Art Gallery Foundation, a member of Friends of the Bendigo Art Gallery and a benefactor of Ulumbarra Theatre.
He was also a member of the Australia Council for the Arts and a board member of Film Victoria.
“I think the arts is one of the great civilising vectors of life,” the Honourable Nathan said.
“All the great societies and communities have expressed their values through the arts… It’s the great ingredient that makes a society vibrant, introspective, caring and decent.”
On top of that, he served on the board of Make-A-Wish International, and is involved in the Mia Mia community through the CFA and the Mia Mia Community Flower Festival.
Until recently, he also taught at La Trobe University.
With a laugh, he said having a Jewish mother helped motivate him to achieve all that he had, but he was driven by a major commandment in Judaism: ‘tikkun olam’, which means ‘repair the world’.
“That’s what we’re all here for,” the Honourable Nathan said.
To meet more of central Victoria’s 2018 Australia Day Honours List recipients, click here.